Let’s stop public money going towards land used for fox hunting

Luke Pollard

This month has marked 15 years since hunting with dogs was banned in England and Wales. The Hunting Act was one of Labour’s proudest achievements in government, putting an end to the cruel “sport” of fox hunting. It was a landmark moment in the fight against animal cruelty. But we are still nowhere near the end of the fight against blood sports.

There are 299 hunts still active across Britain. The sheer scale of the problem is shocking. Loopholes are being exploited, exemptions are being taken to the extreme, and the need to strengthen the ban on fox hunting has never been clearer.

The government’s new Agriculture Bill tries to overhaul what funding government gives to farmers. As ever with this government, the headlines are positive but there’s less to celebrate when it comes to the detail. The new bill sees the system of payments to farmers move to a Public Money for Public Goods approach, which would mean farmers get more government funding for looking after their land and their environment. This is good in principle, but the problem arises when we get into what exactly is being rewarded by government.

Labour has tabled an amendment to stop public money going towards land that is used for fox hunting, or where an offence under the Hunting Act has taken place. It cannot be right for public money designed to fund very real public goods, such as animal welfare, could end up being be paid where land is also used for hunting with dogs. We must make sure that public money does not support a cruel sport that should have been consigned to history long ago.

Hunts need land to operate on – and the more they are denied it, the less opportunity there will be to flout the law. This was recognised by the Labour group of Nottinghamshire County Council, who successfully passed a motion calling for the end of hunting, including exempt hunting, on council-owned land.

By preventing support payments being paid to landowners convicted of knowingly allowing illegal hunting to take place, we can make them think twice before allowing hunting and embolden the police to pursue charges where they suspect the law has been broken.

I was proud to stand as a candidate at the last election on Labour’s Animal Welfare Manifesto. This has committed to strengthening the Hunting Act and closing all of the loopholes that are used for hunting foxes, deer and hares. The last general election showed there was clear public support for a renewed and strengthened ban on fox hunting. I’ve spoken out on this in the Commons again and again – and Labour is more committed to strengthening the fox hunting ban than ever.

Labour is committed to the fight to end the hunting of animals with dogs once and for all. Cruelly chasing a terrified animal for hours on end just for entertainment cannot be allowed in any form. The end goal is clear, but it requires us to be on our guard, and vigilant to new opportunities to put an end to the chasing and killing of animals. Labour’s amendments to the Agriculture Bill would be another important milestone on the way to stopping this cruelty.

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